A citizen is born: Identification numbers in midwifery practice
Baki Cakici, IT University of Copenhagen

Numbering and counting are essential methods for the state to know and govern populations. In Denmark, every child is assigned a Central Person Register (CPR) number shortly after birth, and the number links the infant and the parent(s) to larger state infrastructures. In the vast majority of cases, the responsibility for assigning the number lies with the midwife attending the birth of the infant.
Following Michelle Murphy’s insight that the notion of population relies on an epistemology that objectifies and dehumanises life, I attend to the frictions between the political subjectivities enacted by the CPR number and the expectations of intimacy in interpersonal care by midwives before, during, and after childbirth. I discuss how caring in the moment and caring for the future often demand conflicting responses. These are organised around three encounters: the assignment of substitute numbers, the use of the CPR number in emergencies, and discussions of the identification bracelet assigned to all admitted patients.
In this talk, I build toward a larger argument on how the CPR enacts subjects that can be addressed by the state from the moment of birth, and how the assignment of a CPR number at the moment of birth exemplifies the tension between care and control that permeates the welfare state.

 

Making altruistic white egg donors in Finland: enacting gender and race in private fertility care for donors
Riikka Homanen, Tampere University

Having a baby of ‘one’s own’ is increasingly being outsourced. Reproductive tissue, such as gametes and embryos, is being obtained from others as commercial services, also across national borders. To meet the increasing demand the multi-million euro fertility industry recruits, especially, women as donors and surrogates globally. Finland is the Nordic destination for access to commercial donor eggs, mostly amongst relatively wealthy white Nordic nationals who view Finns as Nordic kin. The Finnish market is a peculiar kind: altruism-based donation system with minimal compensation to the donors meets growing commercial care sector with international business links supported by the Nordic welfare state government.

Drawing on ethnographic material from three private fertility clinics in Finland, this presentation discusses the peculiar ways the Finnish market is organised and the ways in which the donor women are cared for at the clinics. The practices of care imply subtle gendered sociotechnical ways of reproducing and appealing to the donor women’s main motivation to donate, namely to maternally and altruistically help people to have children. My analysis shows that the practices emotionally commit women to the treatment process and affirming the donor identity. By applying Melinda Cooper’s and Catherine Waldby’s concept of clinical labor, I suggest that the medics and technology partake in many ways in the process of this affective and embodied labor essential to the commercial undertakings of the clinics that reinforce the notions of the Nordic whiteness of Finnish donors. Further, I argue that in concert with the recent Finnish neoliberal policies the legislative ban on compensation to donors has made the donor eggs more affordable for relatively wealthy Nordic people and profitable for the clinics.

 

Intimate engagements with cancer research: an ethnography of patient advocacy and the quest for better gynecological cancer care
Lisa Lindén, Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg

Patient organizations (PO) work intensely to influence policy, research and health care. In doing so, they do extensive work to achieve better care, treatments and support for patients. In this presentation, I draw upon an ongoing ethnographic study of a gynecological cancer PO in Sweden to center on the varieties of (intimate, embodied, medical, practical) knowledge enacted when patients and relatives themselves engage in medical practice.

By analyzing how the patient advocates from the PO draw upon their own affective experiences of gynecological cancer as basis for what issues to mobilize around, I discuss entanglements of disease, embodiment and biomedical knowledge. I analyze how they do “evidential work” (Akrich et al. 2014); they assemble, produce and mobilize evidence supporting their cause. Such work takes a range of forms, and includes matters such as the collection of patient stories, interviews and meetings with researchers and health care professionals and the organization of seminars and lectures. In analyzing such work as ethico-political practice (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011), I attend to how they try to, as they often say themselves, “do good”. I analyze how such “mode of doing good” (Pols 2003) are enacted in practice, and attend to their multi-layered and complex knowledge politics. For example, in often centering on a wish to provide hope to patients, there is a tendency that the patient advocates center their work on future or new treatments, rather than on existing “darker sides of” (Martin et al. 2015) gynecological cancer care. I use frictions and tensions within such practices to attune to the generative potential of multiplicities in patient advocacy practices.